Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Cruzando Las Fronteras De la Comunicacion Profesional Entre Mexico Y Los Estados Unidos: The Emerging Hybrid Discourse of Business Communication in a Mexican-U.S. Border Region

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Cruzando Las Fronteras De la Comunicacion Profesional Entre Mexico Y Los Estados Unidos: The Emerging Hybrid Discourse of Business Communication in a Mexican-U.S. Border Region

Article excerpt

This study presents analytical research that explores the form and function of written business communication on a U.S.-Mexico border through a combined method of descriptive and context-sensitive rhetorical text analysis. Dam comprise documents (letters, proposals, invoices) from a Mexican company that operates on both sides of the border and communicates in both English and Spanish. Documents were analyzed through multiple passes for identifiable linguistic and rhetorical patterns in the areas of purpose, audience, style, and organization, paying close attention to those traits typically ascribed to Mexican business discourse. Findings of this study suggest that professionals on this U.S.-Mexico border are adopting, and adapting to, shared communicative standards and practices in business communication.

Keywords: international business communication; border business communication; nondivisive cultural theory; text analysis; Mexico business writing

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This study presents analytical research that explores the form and function of written business communication in a U.S.-Mexico border company. This is done to assess the presence of rhetorical and linguistic features typically identified with Mexican business discourse such as indirectness about purpose, ornateness and fluidity in style, and placing higher emphasis on personal rather than business issues. In addition, this study explores to what extent, if any, professional writing behaviors in Mexican border texts subscribe to principles of U.S. business communication and what implications this might have for U.S.-Mexico border business communication and, more generally, for border business communication at large.

Although much has been written about U.S. business communication, very little research has been done in the area of Mexican-U.S. business communication--more specifically, in border regions where, under the influences of the twin plant industry and NAFTA, rich commercial and industrial sites have created a unique bicultural professional community and language. As such, border regions offer an excellent site for the study of emerging bicultural discourse practices--the communication practices of two cultural groups in neighboring geographic zones.

Many scholars investigating communication between Mexicans and U.S. Americans take an essentialist or contrastive approach, focusing not on the technical and business writing that travels cross border between cultures but rather on culturally marked practices and behaviors such as greetings, use of colors, dress codes, and attitudes regarding time (Hall, 1959; Hoft, 1995; Hoftstede, 1980). These essentialist or contrastive approaches highlight remarkable differences between the Mexican and U.S. cultures and define communication as centered on "us/them" attitudes of cultural variability; thus, we have texts on Mexican/American communication, which in many cases are read both by academic and nonacademic audiences. Such "quick fix" reference manuals can be found in bookstores as well as university libraries. Reed and Gray's (1997) How to Do Business in Mexico: Your Essential and Up-To-Date Guide for Success and Morrison, Conaway, and Borden's (1994) Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands': How to Do Business in Sixty Countries are examples of commercial texts that provide brief cultural overviews of behavior styles, negotiation techniques, and business practices in Mexico:

   For business, men should wear a conservative dark suit and tie. ...
   Giving gifts to executives in a business context is not required.
   ... Secretaries do expect gifts. Be
   prepared for a hug on the second or third meeting. At a party, give
   a slight bow to everyone as you enter the room. You are expected to
   shake hands with each person when you leave. (Morrison et al., 1994,
   pp. 234-235)

These texts give rise to amusing images of U.S. Americans abroad, bringing gifts to secretaries, bowing at everyone, and preparing to be hugged. …

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